It has been observed that schools are probably the late adopters of any new technology that is unveiled. This is because of the complexities of technologies, need to train teachers, efforts and talent required in embedding the technologies in the school processes and the high costs involved in creating software programmes, specially in the early stages of evolution of new technology. However with AI, some of these challenges could be overcome and in fact it has the potential to bring about a sea change in the teaching and learning experience in classrooms. There is of course no question of replacing teachers from the classrooms, specially in the formative years of children in schools where interaction with peers and the teachers creates a healthy environment for development. The question really is how can we enrich this experience both for teachers and the students and what is the role that AI could possibly play in bringing about the transformative change in the schools—not only the private schools but also in the network of state supported institutions around the country.
One of the primary issues we face in Indian schools is the high number of students per class teachers have to handle and the lack of personalised attention that is possible to be provided as a result. AI could facilitate the teachers help prioritise their time in knowing the profiles of students in each class and focus on complex concepts that most students have a challenge in understanding. Students could be provided customised content to keep their motivation levels high in learning. Thus AI tool could become a life-long learning companion for each student. Teachers could be freed up to a great extent from having to carry out manual assessment and feedbacks to students as powerful tools are emerging on the strength of machine learning which would enable teachers to provide more frequent and precise inputs to students to focus on areas of improvement and also concentrate on developing the soft skills in students. Google Translate is an excellent example of how students whose mother tongue is not English could benefit through its features for correcting grammar and spelling and finetune the documents students try to create. One of the significant advantages of AI tools is that these are able to provide support to students without being impatient or judgemental, thus building confidence leading to sustained interest in learning.
Many Indian schools are equipped with computers but we are still trying to teach them coding or using them at times for supporting the students with content that is prepared with a one size fits all approach. While coding is one of the important elements of AI and content to supplement text books is useful, increasingly developing computational thinking is what would be necessary to be able to take full advantage of the potential of AI. Instead of depending upon a dedicated set of technology specialists who can support schools to develop their IT solutions, we need to get teachers to learn how to exploit the potential of AI in teaching and designing of content and get them to rethink the future design of learning experience for students. It would be important for teachers to be equipped to impart skills that would be required to deal with the powerful machines that would become much more smarter, faster and intelligent in the days to come and sharpen their minds to remain ahead of the thinking that machines would be capable of.
The writer is executive chairperson, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company